There is a good Ukrainian proverb that “man is not a cow, he won’t drink more than a bucket of horilka“. Isn’t it funny! Can you drink a bucket of horilka? I bet, you won’t be… otherwise you will be walking out of my kitchen horizontally, or will be staying there till tomorrow as minimum, but in the morning during breakfast you might receive a new glass of horilka to help you deal with hangover and then everything repeats. So, be careful it is a tricky alcoholic beverage.
As you may recognize the talk is today about traditional Ukrainian beverage- horilka (vodka in Ukrainian language). In my country, since we speak Ukrainian, we differentiate between vodka and horilka, let’s not mix them. It can be explosive!
I chose such a topic for my post, because many of you expressed a wish to hear about it. And you know that I cannot turn down your requests. Moreover, I thought that it might be pretty interesting to find out more about this well-known beverage. That’s why I prepare two glasses of horilka for you and waiting you to join me in this fascinating alcoholic trip.
Cheers (“Bud’mo” in Ukrainian), but I will probably say after something like “guys, how can you drink it? It’s awful?”. I should confess that I almost don’t drink any alcoholic beverage. I just don’t understand its taste. Sorry, folks, can’t do much. However, as a person who likes discovering this world I would like to find out where does horilka come from and what is behind…
The word ‘alcohol’ comes from the Arabic ‘al-kuhl’. Arabs borrowed the technology and carried it to western Europe. In western Europe, distilling alcohol from wine was practiced in Italy in the 11th century, but generally this was done secretly by alchemists. Distilled alcohol reached Poland probably from Germany in the 15th century and it is recorded that the term ‘wodka’ was known from at least 1534. It is believed that distilled alcohol spread from Poland via Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, and only then to Russia. So, see, my dear polish Friends, we should thank you for having horilka as one of our beloved spirits. Who is our Big Brother now! Niech Zyje, Polska! Na zdrowie!
Our chronicle mentions that mead was brewed for the funeral wake which Princess Olga held for her husband. With the introduction of distillation flavored horilka appeared. In the 19th century a ‘nalyvka’ was made by steeping fruit in 25% horilka, while a ‘nastojanka’ (‘nastojka’) was made by steeping herbs and spices in a similar strength horilka. Later, when it became easier, sugar was added for sweetness. The term ‘nalyvka’ was also used for a type of sweet fruit wine made by fermenting fruit and berries without added water, but with sufficient sugar to provide a residual sweetness. This was naturally weakly alcoholic, and to increase the strength, horilka was added. A stronger variant, was called ‘spotykach’, the name derived from the Ukrainian verb ‘to tumble’. Who is the tumbler? Wow, I got to know so much new, friends. Even I feel a bit drunk from all this information and you? How about one more glass? Na zdorowja! (“for good health” in Ukrainian).
You can be more surprised to hear that Ukrainians are very good at cooking homemade horilka, which is called “samogon”. I am sure you never heard this word before and have never tried samogon before. It can have a more tricky effect on you, since samogon can be even stronger. At once, I had a funny experience. I was much younger, at university yet. I went to a trip to Mountains for summer holidays. I had an infection spot in my mouth and it was painful. During celebration of Ukrainian Independence Day our company had horilka and since I usually don’t drink, they decided to seduce me in other way. They offered me not to drink it, but take a sip of horilka and keep it in my mouth to cure my infection. I followed their advice…don’t you guess what was the result? You are right, Ann felt drunk, eyes are funny, and I wanted to sing…la-la-la-la!
If you do not smile yet, then another story for you. Did you know that alcohol content in our horilka is measure with the help of nose? Nope, you are not mistaken. A usual human nose. Are you confused? It is pretty simple. There are three stages. First one – after drinking a sip of freshly brewed samohon your nose has not changed its color, at all, it means that samohon is not ready yet, it is too close to beer, concentration is too low. Second – brewing longer and gain tasting, the tip of your nose gets pink just a bit similar to rosy cheeks of a young lady who is blushing. Third – after one more sip your nose is already red like a red-rip tomato, which means that alcohol concentration is almost the maximum. Samohon is ready to be served. Who is ready to taste?
One more glass of horilka? Cheers…Nazdravlje! Skål! Proost! Kippis! Santé! Prost! Egészségedre! Salute! Na zdrowie! Saúde! Noroc! Salud! Будьмо! I have no idea I am a polyglot, after several glasses of horilka I started to speak so many languages. It is a magical liquid!!!
See you after one more glass! Happy Weekend!